Great Article on Picture Book Writing!

After this past week of blogging about perfect picture book words, a message board buddy asked me to critique her picture book manuscript today. It’s always fun to let the text tumble around in my brain where it can be met with illustrations from my imagination. That’s why they’re called picture books after all.

But with young reader’s in mind, I think there’s so much more that goes into a great picture book — such as pacing and page turns and payoffs.

That’s why I love this article and hope you do too!

Cheryl Klein on Voice – Sneak Preview!!

Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic) blogged on “voice” in preparation for her upcoming talk. Cheryl, who’s so generous with her advice to writers posts many of her talks on her website. I urge you to check them out.

And for anyone writing or revising and perhaps struggling with voice, this blog post is not to be missed.

In my current WIP I’m using a lot of freewriting to find and stay in voice throughout the story. And it’s very much in line with several of Cheryl’s points, particularly:

“Start out writing everything that comes to mind—all the backstory, internal monologue, etc., you want. Then you have it all laid out before you and you just have to choose what’s truly necessary and cut the rest.”

I think in the past I worried about too much naval-gazing and consequently couldn’t stay in the head of my MC long enough to maintain her voice. Writing everything that comes to mind creates surprising thoughts, turns of phrase, and humor that allows me to enter more deeply into my MC’s first person voice. So for now, I’m turning off my internal editor knowing I’ll be cleaning and cutting late.

Another trick I love to use is talking out scenes, even before they’re written — sometimes with a little voice lilt or accent going on. (I might have to start carrying my voice recorder in my car!) This is a great help in developing the rhythm of a character’s voice which seems also key. And it happens to be really fun!

Thanks again to Cheryl for sharing wise advice that keeps us rolling, whether through first drafts or 4th-round revisions.

For the Love of 49 Words: A Revision Story Part 3

Well this is the final post in my series “For the Love of 49 Words” in which I spend hundreds telling you how I’m finding those perfect few. In the last episode you left me plunking my rhymers into my spreadsheet to form the spine of my story. Here’s what happened next:

I ordered my rhyming pairs so that their concepts would escalate in absurdity – a winning progression for a kid’s book. Of course, I couldn’t settle on only one ordering so I kept 5 columns open on that spreadsheet for 5 possible versions. Thankfully, I had one favorite word pair that promised the biggest payoff at the end of the book. That couplet won its rightful place in the last position and hasn’t moved since.

So now with my B’s is my ABCB scheme in place, I needed to drop in all my A’s and C’s. Easy you say? Think again.

Even though I’d previously highlighted my favorites from my brainstormed word list, I now had new goals for the remaining words:

  • Cover all five senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, touch,
  • Root out words that might be too similar in illustration,
  • Consider patterning or a progression of words for illustration,
  • Examine beats per line and rhythm readability
  • Use techniques in addition to rhyme, such as alliteration, to improve readability.

So with all those things in mind I started plunking, pulling, pasting, copying and cutting words like crazy into those five columns. And when I thought I’d come upon a perfect combination, I highlighted the whole column and let it rest for a while.

Finally I had three columns highlighted and two I threw out. I read each out loud a minimum of fifty times until the words became inevitable. I had 49 words I loved! — albeit in three distinct versions.


So now after all that passion, those 3 columns are icing just a bit for a fresh read in a few days. At that time one — hopefully at least one — will stand out as the best. Here’s hoping!

See For the Love of 49 Words: A Revision Story Part 1 and Part 2.

For the Love of 49 Words: A Revision Story Part 2

When I first wrote this picture book, I composed a word list — a brainstorm of all possible kid words (and a lot of made-up words) that dealt with my topic, FOOD. Thankfully I still had that word list stored safely in my files. I don’t remember how I’d ever gotten to the text I’d originally submitted, because my list turned up a wealth of stronger words.

With word list in hand, I highlighted my favorites with a focus on illustration strength and humor. Which words would a kid love? Plus, my editor and illustrator offered several winners I hadn’t thought of, so I added them too.

Next I coupled my rhymers. Because my text is written in an ABCB rhyme scheme I wanted to make sure I had rhyming words with “payoff.” Payoff at the page turns is important to young readers. So the rhymers became the spine of my story and I plugged them into an Excel spreadsheet — a terrific way to play around with the text. And that’s when the fun began.

See For the Love of 49 Words: A Revision Story Part 1.

For the Love of 49 Words: A Revision Story Part 1

One of my upcoming picture books was submitted at 45 words and sold at 65. Yesterday I received a very kind and thoughtful revision letter from my editor asking me to cut 16 words and change all the rest. You think I’m joking?

Two funny truths about that letter:

  • I completely agree with her suggestions and
  • I’m excited to get started.

Now I’m not trying to sound like the Pollyanna of publishing, but I’m thrilled that someone other than me cares so much about the quality of my picture book and hence, those 49 words.

I don’t believe in making work harder than it needs to be, but in honor of the readers I care so very much about, I’d like to tell you about the journey of those 49 words.

So tune in tomorrow for the first of a few posts in which I spend hundreds of words to tell you about finding those perfect few.

All materials © 2020 Jean Reidy. Author website by Websy Daisy. Shelly the Turtle designed by Genevieve Leloup.